Museum Exhibit FAQs

Paul Orselli Talks Museum Exhibit FAQs

Over the years, clients and colleagues have been asking Paul Orselli and POW! many "Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) about museum exhibit development and design, as well as other aspects of the museum business ranging from “What makes a great exhibit label?” to “What should I look for in a museum consultant?” We started the Museum FAQ video series to answer some of those questions in a fun and informative way.

Museum FAQ Videos

We’ve just started the library of Museum FAQ videos. Bookmark this page and come back often to view new Museum FAQ videos! Do you have your own Museum FAQ that you would like Paul to answer, or do you have a suggestion for a new Museum FAQ video? Just send Paul an email at paul@orselli.net and you might see your Museum FAQ featured in a new video soon!

 

 

 

ExhibiTricks blog

  • A Wonderful Resource For Creative People That Make Things That Move



    In a fantastic "back to the future" moment, the fine folks at the 507movements.com website have created a wonderful resource for any maker, designer, or builder that makes things that move.

    Basically, they've created a Web version of the classic technical reference Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements by Henry T. Brown. (The original printed edition came out in 1868!)

    As the title of both the original book and the website suggest, here are five hundred and seven drawings of mechanical movements -- from two simple gears meshing to a labyrinthine collection of intricate pulley arrangements.

    The beauty of the website is that they are now animating each of the 507 drawings so you can see the mechanisms in action!

    Definitely worth a look (and worth bookmarking for future reference!) so click on over to the 507movements.com website to see the entire collection!



    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul is an instigator, in the best sense of that word. He likes to mix up interesting people, ideas, and materials to make both individual museum exhibits and entire museums with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.)

    If you would like to support the content on ExhibiTricks, please consider making a small donation through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Hone Your Prototyping Skills By Becoming an Office Supply Ninja!



    Thomas Edison said,  "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."  His reference was to inventing, but he could have also been speaking about prototyping.

    To me, prototyping is an iterative process that uses simple materials to help you answer questions about the physical aspects of your exhibit components (even labels!) early on in the development process.  

    As I mentioned in a previous post, it's always a bit discouraging to hear museum folks say "we just don't have the time/the money/the space/the materials to do prototyping ..."  (By then I'm usually thinking "So how is setting an ill-conceived or malfunctioning exhibit component into your museum, because you didn't prototype, saving time or money?"  But I digress...)


    Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine anyone fabricating an exhibit component without trying out a quick-and-dirty version first.  So in today's post, I thought I'd lay out the simple steps I use to show how quickly and inexpensively prototyping can be integrated into the beginning of any exhibit development process, and how you too can become an Office Supply Ninja!


    STEP ONE:  Figure out what you want to find out.

    In this case, a client wanted me to come up with an interactive version of a "Food Web" (the complex interrelationship of organisms in a particular environment, showing, basically, what eats what.)  We brainstormed a number of approaches (magnet board, touch screen computer) but finally settled on the notion of allowing visitors to construct a "Food Web Mobile" with the elements being the various organisms found (in this particular case) in a mangrove swamp.  The client was also able to provide me with a flow chart showing the relationships between organisms and a floor plan of the area where the final exhibit will be installed.

    The two initial things I wanted to test or find out about from my prototype were:

    1) Did people "get" the idea conceptually?  That is, did they understand the relationships and analogies between the Food Web Mobile and the actual organisms in the swamp?

    2) Could they easily create different sorts of physical arrangements with the mobile that were interesting and accurate?


    STEP TWO: Get out your junk!



    As in the Edison quote above, it helps to have a good supply of "bits and bobs" around to prototype with.  You might not have the same sorts of junk that I've gathered up over years in the museum exhibit racket, but everyone should have access to basic office supplies (stuff like paper, tape, markers, index cards, scissors, etc.)  And really that's all you need to start assembling prototypes. (The imagination part is important, too.)


    STEP THREE: Start playing around with the pieces ...




    Before I even start assembling a complete rough mechanism or system I like to gather all the parts together and see if I like how they work with each other.  In the case of the Food Web Mobile prototype, I used colored file folders to represent different levels of organisms.  I initially made each color/level out of the same size pieces, but then I changed to having each color be a different size.  Finally, I used a hole punch to make the holes, and bent paper clips to serves as the hooks that would allow users to connect the pieces/organisms in different ways.



    STEP FOUR:  Assemble, then iterate, iterate, iterate!

     
    This is the part of the prototyping process that requires other people in addition to yourself.  Let your kids, your co-workers, your significant other, whoever (as long as it's somebody besides yourself) try out your idea. Obviously, the closer your "testers" are to the expected demographic inside the museum, the better --- ideally I like to prototype somewhere inside the museum itself. 

    Resist the urge to explain or over-explain your prototype.  Just watch what people do (or don't do!) with the exhibit component(s).  Take lots of notes/pictures/video.  Then take a break to change your prototype based on what you've observed and heard, and try it out again.  That's called iteration.


    In this case, I saw right away that the mobile spun and balanced in interesting ways, but that meant that the labels would need to be printed on both sides of the pieces.  Fortunately, my three "in-house testers" (ages 6, 11, and 13) seemed to "get" the concept of "Food Webs" embedded into the Mobile interactive, and started coming up with interesting physical variations on their own.


    For example, I initially imagined people would just try to create "balanced" arrangements of pieces on the Mobile.  But, as you can see below, the prototype testers enjoyed making "unbalanced" arrangements as well (which is fine, and makes sense conceptually as well.)   Also, we discovered that people realized that they could hang more than one "organism piece" on the lower hooks (which was also fine and also made sense conceptually.)





    STEP FIVE: Figure out what's next ... even if it's the trash can!

    Do you need to change the label or some physical arrangement of your prototype?  Using simple, inexpensive materials makes that easy.

    Do you just need to junk this prototype idea?  Using simple, inexpensive materials makes it easier to move on to a new idea, too. (Much more easily than if you had spent weeks crafting and assembling something out of expensive materials from your workshop...)  It's not too surprising to see people really struggle to let a bad exhibit idea go, especially if they've spent several weeks putting it together. Quick and cheap should be your watchwords early on in the prototyping process.

    In this case, I sent photos of the paper clip prototype and a short video showing people using the Food Web Mobile to the client as a "proof of concept."  They were quite pleased, and so now I will make a second-level prototype using materials more like those I expect to use in the "final" exhibit (which I'll update in a future post.)  Even so, I will still repeat the steps above of gathering materials, assembling pieces, and iterating through different versions with visitors. 

    I hope you'll give this "office supply ninja" version of exhibit prototyping a try for your next project!

    If you do, send me an email and I'd be happy to show off the results of ExhibiTricks readers prototyping efforts. 




    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul is an instigator, in the best sense of that word. He likes to mix up interesting people, ideas, and materials to make both individual museum exhibits and entire museums with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.)

    If you would like to support the content on ExhibiTricks, please consider making a small donation through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Are Direct-To-Consumer Brands Changing The Retail Experience By Becoming More Like Museums?



    I was intrigued by this article discussing how direct-to-consumer (DTC) and digitally-native brands are creating bricks-and-mortar outposts that are less about shopping/purchasing (you can do that online after all) and more about creating experiences.

    For companies like Casper and Indochino, stores are just one piece of a much larger picture, and oftentimes an educational tool.

    Although the bedding brand Casper is slated to open 200 stores across North America, it took the brand two years to debut its first permanent retail location. During that time, pop-up experiments were funneling in information that helped guide marketing and design teams on what the store should look and feel like.

    One of the biggest stipulations for Casper stores was that they had to be fun. 

    "We call it playful science — which is something that is inspired by science museums ... It teaches you about our product in a very playful way." 

    Retailers and marketers are obviously learning some tricks from museums, but what can museums learn from digital and traditional retailers as they seek to attract customers? 

    Click on over to read the entire article on the Retail Dive website - it's a real eye-opener!



    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul is an instigator, in the best sense of that word. He likes to mix up interesting people, ideas, and materials to make both individual museum exhibits and entire museums with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.)

    If you would like to support the content on ExhibiTricks, please consider making a small donation through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • POW! Launches Museum FAQ Video Series


    Paul Orselli Workshop (POW!) is pleased to announce the launch of the new Museum FAQ video series!  Click on over to the Museum FAQ webpage to view the first videos in a library that will be growing quickly.

    Over the years, clients and colleagues have been asking Paul Orselli and POW! many "Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) about museum exhibit development and design, as well as other aspects of the museum business ranging from “What makes a great exhibit label?” to “What should I look for in a museum consultant?” We started the Museum FAQ video series to answer just those sorts of questions in a fun and informative way.
    We’ve just started the library of Museum FAQ videos, so bookmark the Museum FAQ webpage and come back often to view new videos! 
    Do you have your own Museum FAQ that you would like Paul to answer, or do you have a suggestion for a new Museum FAQ video? Just send Paul an email at paul@orselli.net with your questions or requests and you might see your own Museum FAQ featured in a new video soon!


    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul is an instigator, in the best sense of that word. He likes to mix up interesting people, ideas, and materials to make both individual museum exhibits and entire museums with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.)

    If you would like to support the content on ExhibiTricks, please consider making a small donation through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Quick Inspiration: String Art



    Check out this string art created with ultraviolet light or video projection.



    For more images and information, click over to the artist's Facebook page or website.



    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

    Please support ExhibiTricks by making a donation through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

 

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